Most of us are familiar with how postpartum depression (PPD), a mood disorder, affects some women after childbirth. However, fathers can also develop depressive symptoms during this time. This condition is called paternal postnatal depression.

According to a 2016 meta-analysis, 8.4% of fathers experience depression during pregnancy up to a year after childbirth [*]. It is important to seek support and help from healthcare professionals as depression can have a significant impact on them, including their loved ones. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms of paternal postnatal depression, healthy coping strategies to help manage it, and signs that you need to seek assistance from a professional.

How Does Postpartum Depression Affect Men?

Depression can look different for men. For example, men might experience irritability, indecisiveness, and emotional blunting more [*]. Emotional blunting involves the numbing of emotions.

Also, men who have had depression in the past are at greater risk for paternal postnatal depression [*]. Knowing how to identify the symptoms can help you and your spouse recognize when you might need professional help. 

Recognizing Symptoms of Paternal Postnatal Depression

Common symptoms of paternal postnatal depression include [*]:

  • Sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in activities
  • Weight loss
  • Change in appetite and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of focus
  • Indecisiveness
  • Thoughts of death or suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempt

Ways to Cope with Postpartum Depression

If you or your spouse are going through depression, there are effective coping strategies available, such as mindfulness practice and seeking social support. It’s helpful to recognize that the postpartum period is a time of transition for your whole family. A postpartum doula can assist your family during the fourth trimester, once baby has arrived.

Remember, self-care is also an essential form of coping during this challenging time. It can take various forms, including physical, mental, and emotional practices, all aimed at helping you manage symptoms and find relief for depression.

Self-Care Practices for Fathers

Self-care activities can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression for fathers who experience paternal postnatal depression. Here are suggestions you can try:

  • Eat healthy meals: Depression often causes feelings of fatigue. Balanced and nutritious meals can provide energy to support your physical health.
  • Establish a consistent sleep routine: A regular sleep routine can provide your body with the energy it needs to take care of your child, engage more fully in daily activities, and recover from daily stressors. 
  • Practice mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation involves focusing the mind on the present moment. One example is sitting comfortably in a quiet place and focusing your attention on the sensation of your breath. This can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.
  • Take frequent breaks: Parenthood can be demanding, and taking breaks can help you recharge and prevent burnout. Breaks also encourage you to engage in self-care activities such as going for a walk, taking time for yourself, or pursuing a hobby. A postpartum doula can support your family by caring for your newborn, an older sibling, helping with chores, and even preparing a healthy meal. All of this will give Dad and Mom and chance to take a breather.
  • Make time for hobbies: Hobbies provide an outlet for relaxation and enjoyment, helping you to unwind and relieve stress accumulated from the demands of parenthood and depression. They can help shift the focus away from negative thoughts and emotions associated with paternal postnatal depression. 

Seeking Social Support

Having someone to talk to and lean on can make you feel less alone. It provides understanding and empathy, which can ease feelings of loneliness. Friends and family members can also help assist with childcare, household chores, meal preparation, and other tasks that can lighten the load while you are going through depression. 

Moreover, there are plenty of support groups and online resources where you can connect with other fathers who have gone or are currently going through depression. This can help you gain perspective on your condition and find hope in recovery.

When to See a Doctor

A licensed mental health professional can provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) to help ease your depression [*]. 

CBT is a type of talk therapy that involves shifting cognitive distortions into more healthy thinking patterns. Moreover, it also includes learning healthy coping skills and changing behavior [*]. 

IPT is another form of talk therapy that focuses on improving and addressing interpersonal issues as a way to alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders, such as depression [*]. 

Recognizing When Professional Help is Needed

There are several factors to consider to determine how long depression lasts. This depends on the type of depression, the presence of other mental health problems, stressful life events, and lack of emotional support, among others.  

If your paternal postnatal depression depressive symptoms last for more than two weeks, reach out to a licensed mental healthcare provider for support. Seek help if it affects your daily life and relationships, and you’re having difficulty coping. 

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, it’s crucial to seek help immediately. This may involve contacting a mental health professional, calling a crisis hotline, or going to the nearest emergency room for immediate assistance.

Recharging and Finding Time with Your Partner

Quality time with your spouse can help you feel closer, talk more openly, and support each other better, which can help ease feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Nurturing Relationships Amidst Parenthood

Make intentional efforts to maintain and strengthen connections with your partner despite the demands of raising children. For example, make time to talk and listen to each other regularly. 

Communication builds understanding and strengthens emotional bonds.

Schedule regular date nights or mini-dates where you can focus on each other and enjoy each other’s company. This can help keep the romance alive and reinforce the importance of your relationship.

Sharing Parenting Responsibilities

When parents share responsibilities, each parent can have time for self-care and rest. This can include activities like hobbies or relaxation techniques, which are important for managing postpartum and paternal postnatal depression.

Work with your partner to address parenting challenges and help the other develop effective coping strategies and problem-solving skills. This empowers you to feel more competent and confident in your parenting role, which can mitigate feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt associated with depression.

Be Kind to Yourself During This Difficult Time

Remember, prioritizing self-care is essential—it’s just as important as caring for your family. You deserve the time and space to heal. The steps you’re taking toward healing are worth appreciating! 

If you are looking for a Postpartum Doula to support your whole family, reach out to Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny today as they provide award-winning Boston newborn care that would allow you time to rest and reconnect with your spouse. 

About The Author

Michael-Vallejo-blogger

Michael Vallejo is a Child & Family Therapist with a private practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Through Mental Health Center Kids he hopes to support other therapists, parents, teachers, and mental health professionals with visually appealing online resources to support the well-being of kids in their care.
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